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A colorful collectible: Civil War cigar boxes

During the latter half of the 19th century, the U.S. cigarmaking industry flourished (including here in York County where more than 100 separate small factories or shops turned out rolled cigars for sale across the region). Competition between brands was significant in many places, and shelf appeal became increasingly important. With color offset lithographic printing coming into prominence, advertising pieces became more important, and the use of colorful graphics to attract attention widely increased.
Among the industries competing for the consumer/buyer’s attention was the cigar industry, which took full advantage of lithography for box and lid labels. The topics (and brands) are a dizzying array of diversity, and many of these miniature pieces of artwork have become collectibles in the recent decades. Included among the more popular subject matters is the American Civil War, and the box lid graphics shown here are from a once popular novelty brand known as Gettysburg Commanders.

Cigar boxes and lids, as well as sometimes the unpasted artwork, can be found at times at flea markets and antique malls and shows, usually for only a few bucks. eBay and other on-line markets are also a good source.